UMPI professor challenges theory

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Scholarly debate is one of the cornerstones of academics. In the ongoing scientific discussions surrounding the geology of the Himalayan region, a University of Maine at Presque Isle professor has offered a new perspective on some long-held theories.
In their article “Is the Underthrust Indian Lithosphere Split Beneath the Tibetan Plateau?” published in the International Geology Review, Dr. Chunzeng Wang, assistant professor of earth and environmental science, joins two colleagues in challenging the widely-accepted model of plate tectonic activity in Asia.
    “Many people know the rising of the Himalayas and the formation of the Tibetan plateau was caused by the collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates or continents,” Wang said. “But debates are hot on the complicated geology and tectonics of the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas.”
Since the birth of plate tectonics – the theory that all land masses on the planet have for eons and continue to slowly migrate – geologists have believed the Indian plate is one single piece that collided with and pushed under the Tibetan plate, forming the Himalayan Mountain Range.
But Wang, along with colleagues Dr. Long Xiao of the China University of Geosciences and Dr. Franco Pirajno with the Geological Survey of Western Australia, have combined research to offer a different theory.
According to the three scholars, the Indian plate actually split in two sections, resulting in a one-two punch with the Tibetan plateau rather than the single collision.
No one, Wang said, ever doubted that “single slab” theory until the publication of their article describing a “slab tear” model.
“This is a big challenge to a widely accepted model,” Wang said. “It is important to know that due to a slab tear, geologic processes in the western and eastern Tibetan plateau work at different rates and in different styles.”
The finding of the “slab tear,” Wang said, is a significant contribution to the understanding of the most important continental collision process in recent Earth history.
In addition, Wang explained, it offers new understanding of everything in the region from earthquakes to mineralization to climate and landform changes.
Wang and his colleagues knew they were taking a risk in challenging the accepted theories surrounding the area and spent countless hours researching seismology, topography and geothermal data from the region.
“With more information and data collected, we became more and more excited because more and more evidences supported our finding,” he said.
According to Wang, people who take physical geology know the rising of the Himalaya and the formation of the Tibetan plateau is caused by the collision between Indian and Eurasian plates or continents. But Wang and his colleagues now believe there is more to the story.
“It is true that the collision began as the Indian plate penetrated beneath Eurasian continent as a whole piece,” Wang said.
“What happened later is the whole piece split/tore into two slabs, and each slab penetrates in a different direction and at a different angle and speed. So the finding of ‘slab tear’ is a significant contribution to the understanding of the most important continental collision process in the recent earth history.”
“Understanding tectonic and geologic environments is important to our life,” Wang said. “It is not only important in SE Asia due to the great collision of Indian continent with the Eurasian continent as discussed in our research. It is also important in any other places like Maine in the world.”
It’s a message Wang brings to the classroom everyday.
“UMPI’s environmental studies and geology programs are committed in deepening a student’s understanding of our fragile geologic, biologic, ecologic and chemical environments,” he said. “It offers wonderful and interesting first-class courses in geology such as physical geology, historic geology and environmental geology.”

TRIO Student Support Services program awards grant aid

PRESQUE ISLE – Fifteen students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle received grants this month through a Student Support Services Program.  Each award was approximately $1,400 and will assist the students by reducing their loans and/or helping with unmet needs.
On Dec. 15, 2000, Section 17 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 was amended to provide grant aid for eligible TRIO Student Support Services Program (SSS) students. The respective college/university SSS Program selects the recipients and awards the grant money to freshman and sophomore college students who are active participants and have been with SSS for at least two semesters.
This is the sixth year, since the passing of this act, that UMPI’s SSS Program has been funded to provide its participants with grant aid.
A total of $20,218 was awarded. Mary Kate Barbosa, director of TRIO Student Support Services, and Chris Bell, director of Financial Aid, worked together to make the selections.
The following students received funding: from Fort Fairfield –  Christina Booth, Ryan Butler, Stacy Graves, James Hazelton, Sr. and Donna Smyth; from Presque Isle – Brittany Cray, Heather Jutras, Beth Lozada and Chelsey Trombley; from Caribou – Stacie Keenan; from Blaine – Melissa Hallett; from Hammond – Angela Keith; from Baileyville – Craig Moody; from Somerset – Norah Otieno-Wasonga; and from Danforth – Roger Rabideau.